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Public Meeting on New Homeless Shelter Planned, Blissville Residents Enraged at Shelter Overload

Fairfield Inn by Marriot at 52-34 Van Dam St. (Photo: Nathaly Pesantez)

March 2, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez

A public meeting will take place in the coming days for the community to discuss the new homeless shelter on Van Dam Street that will occupy the current site of the Fairfield Inn by Marriott.

The meeting will be held on March 15 at St. Raphael’s Church, located at 35-20 Greenpoint Ave., from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The event, organized by the Department of Homeless Services, will deal with the permanent homeless shelter for adult families at 52-34 Van Dam St. expected to open this month.

The location will provide shelter for up to 154 homeless families, and is unlike the nearby temporary shelters at the City View Inn and Best Western that have opened up in recent months.

The Van Dam center, according to the DHS, will be a “high-quality transitional housing facility”, and will offer multiple services to help shelter residents, including health and mental health services, employment counseling, and housing placement assistance.

While news of one shelter opening after another has angered residents all over western Queens–it has especially weighed on the people of Blissville, the name of the small, remote neighborhood wedged between Sunnyside, Long Island City and Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Many Blissville residents took to Thursday night’s community board 2 meeting to express their outrage and concerns about the Van Dam Street center opening in their area. The City View Inn, just a block over, houses 100 homeless men, and the Best Western a short walk away has been a shelter for homeless families since late September.

“I feel three hotels in Blissville is just too much,” said Barry Druss, a Blissville resident. “Blissville is a small community. It’s isolated. We can’t be dominated by all this homelessness. I’m sorry—the fear factor is just too high here.”

Druss, like many residents, claimed to see men outside the City View Inn smoking weed and drinking.“Police are over a mile away,” Druss said. “They don’t visit Blissville at all.”

Ronald Komito, who runs the Penske Truck Rental place in Blissville, claims there’s been an uptick in crime. “We have an increase in crime because of the shelters that are going up,” Komito said. “They are congregating and smoking in my trucks that are parked overnight.”

Another business owner in Blissville said the homeless population that currently occupies the City View Inn–which used to house homeless families but began sheltering single men in January–has changed the look and feel of the neighborhood.

“I have absolutely no problem with families next door to our facility,” said Erika Clooney, one of the owners of the Bantry Bay Pub on Greenpoint Avenue. “But over the course of the last six weeks, the demeanor of my neighborhood has completely changed.”

Clooney claims she’s had to call the police several times in the past couple of months, and recounted a recent event where two men allegedly stole two bottles of beer from the bar while a police officer was there. “I knew where they were coming from,” she said. “What he [the officer] told me was to lock the door.”

“I might have to start buzzing people into my business,” Clooney said. “That looks really bad.”

The bar owner said she’s put her entire life savings into the business, and is “terrified” that the new Van Dam shelter will mean loss of profits for her.

“I get most of my night business from the [Fairfield by] Marriott hotel,” she said. “My life savings is in this, and by the city doing this to me, they have just come with one swift brush and now completely could blow out my future.”

The 108th Precinct, which covers Blissville and the surrounding Long Island City area, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Long Island City), who has voiced his opposition to the amount of shelters the city has opened in his district, and with little community input, hopes the community will show up in droves to the upcoming meeting.

“I heard the testimony from many of the residents of Blissville, and I’m extremely concerned about some of the things that they were reporting,” Van Bramer said. “I want their voices to be heard.”

The councilmember said the mayor and the DHS are overloading the community with shelters, and have demonstrated poor planning by continuously opting for hotels to shelter the homeless.

“This is not about demonizing the homeless,” Van Bramer said. “This is about the administration having little to no solution and therefore choosing hotels in Long Island City and Blissville. We are doing more than our fair share.”

He added that the mayor and DHS, who have the sole power to site a shelter without any approval, should be open to changing course on the Van Dam location, even though the agency has firmly fixed on the site.

“If we are going to have a town hall meeting and listen to people then I think the administration should be open to changing their mind,” Van Bramer said. “If you’re not, then why bother having a town hall?”

The DHS said every neighborhood across the five boroughs has a part to play in addressing this citywide challenge.

“We remain committed to open, ongoing engagement with the community and look forward to discussing how we can most effectively work together to support New Yorkers in need as they get back on their feet,” said DHS spokesperson Isaac McGinn.

To RSVP, click here.

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28 Comments

jo

Blissville is not too far from LIC and Sunnyside. LIC is too expensive and oversatuated. I wonder if the area has a zoning that favorable to developers. Could the reason for this concentration of homeless shelter be an attempt by debozo and his crony developers to force the area residents to sell their homes at rock bottom prices…Think about it, as evil as it may sound, I would not pull it pass them. Blissville is up for grabs… hand tight guys and fight them tooth and nail.




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LIC RESIDENT CONCERNED

LIC RESIDENT CONCERNED
March 4th, 2018
Community should go to the meeting and be ready to challenge JVB and his lack of leadership!!! Use that opportunity to voice your opinions against Jimmy Van Bramer on this the most important issue affecting our community. DHS will stock St. Raphael’s Church with homeless families, mothers and children on March 15th, 2018. They will use the church setting to their advantage to try to shame us when one of the members of the community raises his or her voice against the shelters in our community. The meeting held in St.Rapahel’s church across the street from the Best Western Homeless shelter – DHS will fill the pews and bus families in from elsewehere if neccesary. Anyone raising their voice, especially if your white homeowner who will be labeled insensitive and maybe even a racist if you say anything against homeless women and children on March 15th. This is all about money, corruption, waste of public funds, our tax dollars, favortism, connected not-for-profits who overcharge the city, corrupt politicians, their donors and friends who are reaping the benefits. NYS Attorney General and the US Attorneys Office should be investigating this and the connection to Mayor DiBlasio. THE MARCH 15th COMMUNITY CONVERSATION IS A TOTAL SET UP!!!!




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Catherinre

Does anyone have a solution? I see all sorts of negative comments on here. Where would you like these people to go? Some people actually have traumatic experiences, like a fire, job loss, death of the breadwinner? How many people in today’s economy can go get another apartment in NYC? Are you all that hard-hearted? What I hear is discrimination against a marginalized population. I don’ t think many of these people woke up today and said “Hey, I want to go live in a DHS shelter in Blissville, Queens. If there are people being release from prison into the shelter system, that’s a Cuomo issue, and why haven’t we seen or heard about this until this week? But again, where are they supposed to go?




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LIC RESIDENT CONCERNED

Parolees released is our issue, not Coumo’s since we have to deal with them at the City view shelter. True you would need a minimum $10,000 to rent an apartment, one months rents, one month security, one months broker’s fee, but the city is renting the hotel rooms for about $5,000 per month, a room without kitchen — city being overcharged. Identify the homeless who don’t work and are living for free. If any of the homeless don’t work, the city should hand them a broom and dust pan and they should at least earn there keep by sweeping up the neighborhood, sidewalks and local parks where they have been placed in exchange for living for free, that would be a start, a WPA program for the homeless brigade. That way they can sweep up all the trash in the neighborhood.




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rikki

A better idea Don’t drug test them, don’t force them to work a menial job ….instead force them to sit in class 4 hours a day and learn English and Math watch then drop like flies, and no more shelter for them.

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If any of the homeless don’t work, the city should hand them a broom and dust pan and they should at least earn there keep by sweeping up the neighborhood




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Catherinre

I am well informed. I work with these human beings that nobody wants in their neighborhoods. If you read my post, I stated that we are just hearing about the prisoners being paroled to the DHS system. There’s a reason for that, perhaps you should become informed. My point really was where are these humans supposed to go? Is there an island you’d all like them to be stuck on? Perhaps like the leper colonies of long ago? We shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Perhaps the better question is how can we help find a solution? Again, not one of these people woke up and said, yes, I want to be homeless. I can’t wait to live in a shelter!! I agree, there should be policies in place to assist them in finding jobs, even if menial work to start, in addition to them earning their keep, but to keep them busy. Education/vocation and rehabilitation, not continued shame, blame and punishment. Take a walk in their shoes for a moment. Perhaps you’ll become more solution oriented. PS-Your attempt to shame me was pitiful!




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Bruno

Catherine – Can a well informed person such as yourself tell us how many people in the system are multi generational? Is there a study you can direct us to? There are facilities on Randall’s Island that can be accessed.




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LIC RESIDENT CONCERNED

Catherine. No wonder, you work with this population, so you understand completely all the issues. They are angry, many need drug counseling, yoga instruction to deal with anger issues and a in house nutritionist because the crappy hotels have no kitchens where they can cook a decent meal for themselves and their children, eating fast foods instead. Placing these individuals in hotels is not the long term solution and many hotels are leased through the 2022. The Mayor should be ashamed of himself. He is failing these homeless families and the NYC Tax Payers who are covering the costs. These politicians don’t care about the homeless, it’s all about the money, votes and enriching his friends that operate the Not-for-Profits and contributed to his re-election.




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Bruno

Catherine – Many of these people have not had a traumatic incident like fire, loss of a job or death of a bread winner. Many are low wage employed people who have been priced out of most “decent and affordable” neighborhoods in the city, just like countless generations before them. The overwhelming majority of my friends and relatives were priced out of Sunnyside in the 1970’s. Theae people were mostly college educated hard working people who didn’t demand the city put them up in hotels for $5K a month, they moved it wasn’t the end if the world. You can’t afford to live here you need to move to a place you can afford.




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Bruno

No Catherine you don’t hear discrimination, you hear outrage by hard working tax paying citizens. Outrage at $5K a month hotel bills outrage at people with a mentality and an unbelievable sense of entitlement. You can’t afford this place you need to move to a place you can afford. Dozens of my friends and relatives had to do it,they survived. Moving out of the city is not the end of the world. We went through this very scam back in the 80’s.




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ginas13

I was at the meeting. This is not a “not in my backyard” issue. This is a way to hide the homeless and throw them in a mainly industrial area for political reasons. This is not a help to the homeless, this a purely political move. This proves the lies of the Mayor and his people. The Blissville community will have three shelters now. There will be more homeless people than residents. That is insane and actually cruel to the ones who live here.
This hotel is not built to house people long term. The rooms are 10 x 10. There is no kitchen. They claim there will be all these programs for them but when we pressed that issue they admitted that they will have to drive them to these programs. They will have to bring in meals from elsewhere. How is this a good long term solution? They are paying $4500 a room per month. They could find real apartments for these people in real neighborhoods. This area has no play grounds, no schools, the roads are very dangerous. The hotel is on a triangle block on one of the busiest roads in Queens. It is full of trucks from the TV Productions, Fedex, UPS and all the other industries in the area.
No, this is not going to help Homeless people. It is a dumping ground and the only people benefiting area the hotel owners and the politicians getting their palms greased.




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Max

You mean I was raised and lived in the hood for 30 years of my life and GOT OUT! And this Mayor wants to put me back in!!??? WTF!! I have children and I don’t want them growing up in the same environment as me. I worked HARD and bought a piece of the pie!! And The Man still wants to take me down!! He wants to take THE WORKING CLASS down! The only color that matters is GREEN!!! There’s no compassion coming from the “AT-RISK” population being placed in our community. Crime IS happening in Blissville were there was NEVER any in my almost 20 years living here- OUT IN THE OPEN! from assault, to car break-in, aggressive panhandling, urinating and drug use. This is a diverse community! PRIME real estate. A high influx of AT-RISK population creates an increase in crime, lowers property value and folks sell, who scoops up the homes for cheap? Who later gets rid of the AT-RISK population because it no longer serves them? Who buildings luxury residual building? The Man!




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Kathleen

I am trying to find the link to RSVP to the March 15 Community Conversation. Does anyone have the link? Please share if possible 🙂




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WOODSIDE61ST

DiAssio is running out of options he is almost cornered we need to riot and shove his homeless agenda up his … maybe out of state sounds better boston ? Anyone ?




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aint no bliss in blissville

blissvilles such a dump, why dont we give these people a decent neighborhood like midtown manhattan?




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Tommy O

Erika Clooney- Why are you letting the owner of the hotel off the hook? As posted in a previous post, we need to find out who are the actual owners of these hotels hiding behind LLC’s and need to picket their homes and expose these creeps to their neighbors, just like we did back in the 80’s.




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LIC RESIDENT CONCERNED

Community should go to the meeting and be ready to challenge JVB and his lack of leadership!!! Use that opportunity to voice your opinions against Jimmy Van Bramer on this the most important issue affecting our community. DHS will stock St. Raphael’s Church with homeless families, mothers and children on March 15th, 2018. They will use the church setting to their advantage to try to shame us when one of the members of the community raises his or her voice against the shelters in our community. The meeting held in St.Rapahel’s church across the street from the Best Western Homeless shelter – DHS will fill the pews and bus families in from elsewehere if neccesary. Anyone raising their voice, especially if your white homeowner who will be labeled insensitive and maybe even a racist if you say anything against homeless women and children on March 15th. This is all about money, corruption, waste of public funds, our tax dollars, favortism, connected not-for-profits who overcharge the city, corrupt politicians, their donors and friends who are reaping the benefits. NYS Attorney General and the US Attorneys Office should be investigating this and the connection to Mayor DiBlasio. THE MARCH 15th COMMUNITY CONVERSATION IS A TOTAL SET UP!!!!




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Max

What white homeowners? The few homes in this area are mostly owned by people of color! There’re working families of Latinos, immigrants and Asians!




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LIC Neighbor

Your right Max, all of us hard working, many of us here for many years, home owners, raising our families, getting along a truly diverse neighborhood, people of color, Latinos, Immigrants and Asian, we have earned the right to live here, Now the city has imposed these homeless shelters on us and rammed it down our throats. We will see our stable, safe neighborhood go down the tubes. Did you know 54% of parolees released from NY State Prisons end up in Homeless Shelters in Queens and Brooklyn? No wonder the people of Blissville are afraid to walk in their neighborhood, because of the homeless men’s shelter at the City view. This will only get worse this coming summer.




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Mrsgarett

There goes that hood which was trying to gentrify
I guess the Marriott brand has had it. There is lots of construction going on
This will make people think twice about buying or renting




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Joe at Berkley

Mrs Garrett – What do you mean by ” I guess the Marriott brand has had it.” ?




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Joe

I couldn’t attend. What happened at the meeting? The hotel staff says it is not true but they have no clue




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